Arrests have yet to be made in the case of an anti-Semitic assault with a machete against two Carelton University students in Ottawa, but one of the victims of the April 5 early morning attack says that he expects more progress to be made in the investigation when students return to campus this fall.

Following the attack, Jewish students and local residents rallied behind Mark Klibanov, a 20-year-old Israeli native and electrical engineering major, and roommate Nick Bergamini, the 22-year-old non-Jewish vice president of the university’s student association. More than 70 people turned out for a Saturday luncheon sponsored by the Chabad-Lubavitch Student Network of Ottawa immediately after the April 5 incident, recognizing the two students’ efforts at fending off their attackers.

Recalling the events of last month, Klibanov, who holds Canadian and Israeli citizenship, says that he and Bergamini were walking back to their apartment after a night of socializing when “a lot of Arab-speaking males” started shouting at them, calling them “Zionists.” Bergamini recognized one person in the group, warning them that he knew who they were before he sustained a punch to his back.

“They surrounded us,” recounts Klibanov. “We tried to push them back, and we broke out of it. We went back to the bar security and stayed there 10 to 15 minutes until the crowd dispersed.”

Once they believed that things were safe, they again headed back home. But things took a dangerous turn when Klibanov and Bergamini walked past a parking lot and three members of the original group pulled up alongside them. Two assailants got out of the vehicle and started chasing the pair.

“One tried to kick me,” says Klibanov. “They went back to the car and took a machete from the trunk. Immediately, they ran after Nick with the machete. One of them threw it and missed.”

After they outran their attackers, the students filed a police report. Klibanov says that they were instructed by authorities to not discuss further details of the case before the results of the investigation are released.

Bergamini told The Ottawa Citizen that it was clear the attack was motivated by anti-Israel animus and that one of the attackers called him a Jew.

Mark Klibanov (Photo: CBC)
Mark Klibanov (Photo: CBC)

“I have never spoken to that guy in my life, but it is known at Carleton that I have been to Israel and that I have a Facebook site supporting Israel,” said Bergamini. “My roommate is on the board of the Israel Awareness Committee that does advocacy on behalf of Israel.

“I am happy that I am still alive,” he continued. “We both could have been killed.”

When Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky, co-director of the Chabad Student Network serving Jewish students at Carelton and Ottawa universities, heard of the attack, he reached out to Klibanov and Bergamini to offer his support.

“As soon as we learned, we contacted them to see how they were doing,” says Boyarsky, who has known Klibanov for more than two years.

Thankful that they were relatively unharmed, the rabbi decided that a luncheon following Shabbat services would be an appropriate venue for the community to express its support. At the event, Klibanov made the traditional blessing thanking G‑d for escaping danger. He also vowed to “keep Judaism and the Land of Israel at the forefront.”

Among the guests was Rabbi Moshe Kraus, a cantor who survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during World War II. He told the crowd about his experiences dealing with the atrocities inflicted by the Nazis.

Klibanov says that the gathering gave him hope.

“I enjoyed feeling the support of the community,” he says. “They went out of their way to note the incident and remind us that we are part” of a large family.